Presented on Wednesday, May 16, 2007 in the Barn at Quarry Farm. Dr. Bush will offer a brief summary of sume of the material from his new book, Mark Twain and the Spiritual Crisis of His Age. Twain's cultural achievement was deeply indebted to the forms of Christianity of the specific time and place in American history. Much of this debt was positive for Twain, so much so that he could occasionally wax eloquent about Christianity as "the most precious and elevating and ennobling boon ever vouchsafed to the world." Twain's work is also fairly shot through with evidence of the numerous religious controversies then confronting the American church, and Twain often commented on religion's negative dimensions. But it is the positive dimensions that have been most ignored, and which deserve the majority of our attention. The quasi-religious ethos of Twain's adult life - particularly in Hartford, Connecticut and Elmira, New York - was marked by an intellectual, orthodox Christianity, much of it configured as responses to the spiritual crises work against it.
In addition, the talk will consider what constitutes "spiritual crisis," and will sketch the period during the Civil War as one marked by considerable crisis for the Christian church. Much of Twain's best work can be situated within the theological issues and disputes that characterized this era of spiritual upheaval and dissent.
Dr. Harold K. Bush is Professor of English at St. Louis University. He has written and edited numerous books and articles including The Mark Twain - Joseph Twichell Letters (co-edited with Peter Messent) (2017); Continuing Bonds with the Dead: Parental Grief and Nineteenth Century American Authors (2016); Mark Twain and the Spiritual Crisis of His Age (2009); and American Declarations: Rebellion and Repentance in American Cultural History (1999).